Catholicity on the wall

Over a week ago I mentioned that I had intent to post something about the tapestries (and possibly the crypt) of Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, Los Angeles. After intensely scheduled chaos, I am now able to post.

To begin, let me say that it is worth the trek to LA to see the Cathedral. As we have already established, I hold a very low view of the architectural achievements of the building as a Cathedral, it is, however architecturally an achievement. Post-modern architecture has a pleasant structure in its design that, given the time, I would like to deconstruct sometime–but this may be a distant accomplishment.

Here, I would like to draw attention to the theology of the tapestries.


Here is an example of part of the tapestry collection. (The full collection may be seen here.) This piece hangs on the North Wall at the back of the nave. The photograph does not do justice to the enormity of the piece. Nor does it do justice to the technique used in the tapestries to mimic the look of ancient frescoes.

These points, however, are not my point. My point rather is the theological points ascertainable in the pieces. These being:
1) the catholicity of the elect, and,
2) the immortality of the saints.

1) Notice that, even in this one example given, there is a Swede, a Frenchman, an Italian, a Latin, a Peruvian Mulatto, and two examples of ethnic Los Angeles (I’m listing vague Caucasian as an ethnicity, cuz it is one). Elsewhere there are examples of Saints from China, Ethiopia, Judeo-Palestine, etc.

This, I believe, denotes the catholicity of the Church quite well. Along with the multiplicity of ethne, the roll call given in the tapestries shows popes, monastics, scholastics, missionaries, martyrs, rich, old, young, poor, named and unnamed saints. They stand together, indiscriminant of time or geography, all facing toward the alter of the Church.

2) Notice the ‘ware’ that the artist, John Nava, incorporated into the piece. The general choice in colour, texture, etc mimics that of an old fresco. There is ‘age’ written in the very freshness of the piece. Now notice the skin–the faces, the hands, and, where applicable (such as in the case of the young boys), the legs. To term it ‘photographic quality’ does not capture the alive-ness (pardon my loose lexicon) of the subjects of the pieces. The photographs, again, do not capture the beauty and detail in the actual tapestries. But, even given their faults, the photographs do allow you to see that the skin, the actual body of the Saints, is unblemished by time.

While the clothing seems to fade, tarnish, and fall to pieces as the tapestry’ed frescoes ‘age’, the flesh of the Saints is fully in tone of the bodily resurrection.

And, while I may not agree with the theology of clothing herein assumed, I very much like the artistic expression of a very fine theological assertion.

Indeed, visit the cathedral, and see the art. Go down into the crypt, too.


~ by jeorgesmith on 21 August 2007.

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